Kramat site torched

Inside the Sayed Mahmud Mazaar.

A case of arson has been opened at Kirstenhof police station after two men set fire to the Sayed Mahmud Mazaar in Constantia on Tuesday August 7.

The mazaar, or kramat, is situated in the isolated area at the end of Summit Road in Constantia.

According to Mahmood Limbada of the Cape Mazaar Society, the caretaker who lives onsite said the men arrived at 6.10am under the pretence of performing prayers.

He granted them entry and then went back to his living quarters to shower. Hearing the men running away, he discovered the glow of a fire in the kramat.

Mr Limbada said the fire damaged the carpet and a Qur’an casing while the walls and the inside of the green dome were blackened from the flames.

“The caretaker put the fire out quickly so the damage was contained. It’s hard to set the place alight because it’s made of metal, mortar, brick and glass. The Qur’an were miraculously not damaged. We do not, at this stage, want to speculate as to why this happened,” said Mr Limbada.

The shrine is under the control of the Shahmahomed Trust of which Fadiel Essop is chairperson. “It was established by my late great-grandfather, Hajee Sullaiman Shahmahomed, to preserve the historical legacy of the pioneers of the Muslim community in the Cape,” said Mr Essop.

He said he is shocked that someone could target the shrine, considering all the work that had been put into making it a peaceful retreat for visitors.

“The site has always been accessible to all visitors, irrespective of their beliefs and visitors are expected to act in a dignified manner as indicated on the notice boards at the kramat,” said Mr Essop.

Head of the Muslim Cemetery Board and second deputy president of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), Shaykh Riad Fataar, said the mazaar is among other graves of influential Muslims who spread Islam under the yoke of oppression and torture. “The blatant disrespect shown towards Muslim burial sites – especially those that we revere – and to the dead is a cause of great concern,” he said.

When the Bulletin phoned the caretaker on Tuesday afternoon he was opening a case of arson at Kirstenhof police station.

They are now looking through camera footage.

According to the Cape Mazaar Society website, the kramats of the Cape are tombs of influential Muslims who were brought here as slaves.

The circular route to visit the kramats starts at Signal Hill, above the quarry in Strand Street, where two saintly men lie buried, then continues to two graves on top of Signal Hil, then to Oudekraal and then to Constantia and on to Faure before ending on Robben Island. The society says modern pilgrims can visit all, except the island tomb, in a single day.

Anyone with information can contact Detective Captain Paul Alexander at 021 702 8900.